Girls need the freedom to choose their own destinies. Education is the key to achieving that

Share
Related Topics

My mother is a teacher. She taught me that a woman's most empowering weapon is education. I was fortunate to have been born into a middle-class family in Mumbai. But I encountered many girls who were expected to get married at a certain age and, in doing so, call an end to their educational life. Their career paths were not decided by them and, in many cases, they didn't have a career.

The East is rife with blind faith and superstition. It is heartbreaking that, even today, certain cultures are still mired in age-old traditions that remain unquestioned. Some of these are oppressive. I had heard about female genital mutilation, but it was only after a visit to Sierra Leone that I realised how culturally accepted it was there. It's the same with girls in India being married off at an age when they're too young to understand what is happening. Or pregnant girls who have not been told what is happening to their bodies.

Where do you even start to address these challenges? Imagine the struggle of teaching people who have had hundreds of years of heritage and tradition dictate the path of their lives.

Often, the issues are tangled in history. You can't set about tackling early female pregnancy without addressing the lack of sex education or family planning in the generations before. And how do you explain how damaging female pregnancy is to a 14-year-old girl who is in the grips of experiencing it? Try telling parents that there are better and more humane ways for your daughter to bring home money than by forcing her into prostitution? All the answers lie in one cure: long-term education. That's what I hope to facilitate in the next few years with Plan International.

So far, I've been to Sierra Leone and will visit seven more countries this year, including Ethiopia, India, Egypt and Nepal. My mission is to spread awareness. In West Africa recently, I met a 13-year-old girl who harboured a dream to become a finance minister. By talking to her about my own experience and firing her imagination, I hope to have sowed the seeds of change. Often, it just needs a spark of inspiration: we saw it recently in India where the boxer Mary Kom, from a small village in Manipur, won an Olympic medal. Her journey inspired the country.

Over the next few months, I want to speak to girls and inspire them to take new messages home to their families. That's where the difference will be made. I want people to feel empowered enough to stand up for themselves. I want them to be able to say: "I don't want to drop out of school or jump into marriage. I want to finish my education and then chase my dreams."

It is impossible for me to imagine a life in which I didn't have the freedom to choose what I wanted. It suffocates me even thinking about it. I want others to feel that way too.

Freida Pinto is the face of Plan International's 'Because I Am a Girl' advertising campaign

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Recruitment Genius: Project Administrator

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Administrator is requ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
MP David Lammy would become the capital’s first black mayor if he won the 2016 Mayoral election  

Crime, punishment and morals: we’re entering a maze with no clear exit

Simon Kelner
 

The two most important parts of Obama’s legacy could be on the brink of collapse, and this time there's no back-up plan

David Usborne
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn